More than one million Michigan workers affected by COVID-19 now receiving unemployment benefits

LANSING — The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has provided benefits to 1,018,315 Michigan workers who are unemployed as a result of COVID-19. The agency also disbursed more than $1.66 billion in payments since March 15. The most recent U.S. Dept. of Labor report showed 1,178,021 Michiganders filed unemployment claims between March 15 to April 18. Most workers who have not yet received unemployment benefits will be eligible in the coming weeks once they complete the federal requirement to certify their claim, officials announced Monday.

“We are working hard to provide emergency financial assistance to those affected by COVID-19, with more than one million Michiganders receiving benefits,” said Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio. “While Michigan’s unemployment system appears to be outpacing the rest of the country in paying benefits, much work remains for those who still need help completing their claim. We will not rest until everyone receives the benefits they are entitled to.”

In conjunction with the federal CARES Act, Michigan was among the first states in the nation to begin sending the additional $600 federal payments in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and make the unemployment application available to self-employed workers and independent contractors through the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

In a recent Detroit Free Press report, Michele Evermore, senior policy analyst of Washington, D.C., nonprofit National Employment Law Project, said the state has been uniquely responsive to the crisis. Michigan is one of the few states already issuing the additional $600 pandemic benefit handed down from the federal government, she said. Evermore credited Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for improved access to benefits.

The UIA has extended its call center hours and added hundreds of customer facing staff. The agency has also built in new tools to its online system connecting more than 100 staff to resolve technical issues like locked accounts.

In the weeks preceding the pandemic, the UIA received around 5,000 new weekly unemployment claims. During the Great Recession, the weekly high was around 77,000 in 2009.